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Sweden’s Plan to Expand Nuclear Power in Focus During First Visit by Director General Grossi


Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden Tobias Billstrom met with IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in Stockholm. (Photo: MFA Sweden).

Sweden’s renewed commitment to nuclear power highlights growing global interest in this clean source of energy to address the twin challenges of tackling climate change and meeting increased electricity demand, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said during this week’s official visit to the Nordic nation, where he also joined forces with a major radiotherapy company to provide improved cancer care for those in need around the world.

Travelling to Stockholm for the first time since he took office almost four years ago, Mr Grossi met with senior government officials including Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom and Climate and Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari, as well as the heads of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM), the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB), and state utility Vattenfall.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi spoke about nuclear-related issues including Ukraine, Iran and the DPRK, at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. (Photo: IAEA).

Amid significant interest from policymakers, analysts and academics in the IAEA’s work on topical nuclear-related issues including Ukraine, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), he also participated in two high-level panel and round table discussions – at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), where he met with one of his predecessors, Hans Blix.

Sweden first introduced nuclear power in the 1960s and 1970s, and currently operates six reactors at three sites, supplying nearly a third of its electricity, with hydro providing much of the rest in its fossil-free energy mix. This represents half of the 12 reactors that generated electricity a quarter of a century ago, but the government that took office after last year’s general election has made clear its aim to reverse this declining trend and expand the role of nuclear power in the coming two decades, implementing legal changes aimed at paving the way for such an energy transformation.

“For more than half a century, Sweden has been one of the leaders internationally when it comes to nuclear technology. It is now taking steps to facilitate a new expansion phase to meet an anticipated rapid growth in the demand for electricity to power its economy. It is a frontrunner in the clean energy transition, already relying almost exclusively on nuclear, hydro and renewables for its energy needs,” Director General Grossi said.

“My discussions in Stockholm with senior government, regulatory and industry officials have demonstrated a shared understanding that the world needs more nuclear energy to be able to fight the climate crisis effectively. Reliably generating dispatchable power 24/7, nuclear is an ideal partner to wind and solar,” he said. “The IAEA is following developments in Sweden with great interest and stands ready to provide any support that may be requested. I’m very encouraged by what I’m seeing here.”

Sweden is increasingly turning to nuclear power as part of efforts to address some of the most pressing challenges the world is facing. It is far from alone, as many other countries are planning to either expand or extend existing nuclear programmes or launching new ones.

Swedish officials expressed strong appreciation for the IAEA’s wide range of activities to promote the peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. They particularly welcomed the IAEA’s work to help avert the danger of a nuclear accident during the conflict in Ukraine and Mr Grossi thanked them for the country’s extra-budgetary contributions for this important task.

“The situation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant remains extremely precarious, with indications of increased military activity and tension in the region. Now more than ever, the IAEA’s presence is of paramount importance. We can only carry out these activities because of the generous support we are receiving from Sweden and other IAEA Member States,” he said.

Storing Spent Nuclear Fuel

In his meeting at the Swedish nuclear regulator, Mr Grossi and SSM Director General Michael Knochenhauer agreed on the importance of the IAEA’s new Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI) that aims to enhance harmonization of regulatory activities and standardize industrial approaches, which would encourage deployment of new nuclear designs. The IAEA has in recent months conducted two nuclear safety review missions in Sweden.

The initiative seeks to facilitate the safe and secure deployment of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) to maximize their contribution to reach net zero carbon emissions – a topic he discussed with Chief Executive Officer Anna Borg of Vattenfall, which has launched a feasibility study into building such reactors in Sweden.

“Nuclear energy in general – and SMRs in particular – is generating lots of excitement among companies and utilities. We see a natural partnership between the IAEA and industry in these areas,” said Mr Grossi, who two years ago launched the Group of Vienna industry forum with CEOs and Presidents from leading companies and utilities.

SKB CEO Jessica Palmqvist briefed Director General Grossi about its detailed plans to build – as one of the first countries in the world – a final repository to store thousands of tonnes of spent nuclear fuel deep underground. On Wednesday Mr Grossi will travel to the coastal municipality of Oskarshamn in south-eastern Sweden to tour SKB’s underground laboratory facilities for carrying out research in building repositories for spent fuel.

Combating Cancer

Elekta CEO Gustaf Salford, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, and Laurent Leksell, Elekta’s Chairman met in Stockholm to discuss reducing the global cancer burden. (Photo: Elekta).

At the Stockholm headquarters of Swedish radiotherapy company Elekta, Director General Grossi signed a partnership agreement with Chairman Laurent Leksell and CEO Gustaf Salford to intensify cooperation under the IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative to help bring much needed medical services to fight cancer in countries that currently lack such capacity, for example in Africa.

“By joining forces, we are going to be more effective in helping the people that need it the most,” Director General Grossi said.

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